Monday, January 3, 2011

PolitiFact's Lie of the Year

I know I am late getting to this one, but the St. Petersburg Times's "PolitiFact editors and reporters have chosen 'government takeover of health care' as the 2010 Lie of the Year."  Peter Suderman at the Reason Foundation's Hit & Run blog has a nice piece taking PolitiFact to task for this one, which is pretty much summed up by it's title, "PolitiFact's Lie of the Year is an Exaggeration with a ring of Truth."  Here's Suderman:
If you want to point out that the GOP stretched this one, then by all means go ahead. The PPACA wasn’t strictly a government takeover of the entire health care system. No, it was just a dramatic increase in government regulation, oversight, and control of many parts of the system.
This pretty much nails it.  The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act creates or authorizes regulations on health insurance providers that dictate what their insurance plans must cover, the people they must cover, the prices they may charge, and profits they may make.  If my homeowners' association suddenly passed rules that required me to rent out room in my home to others, prevented me from exercising discretion over to whom to rent, and dictated the rents I was permitted to charge, I suppose the HOA did not takeover my home in the sense of legally transferring the property from me to them, but it certainly would have taken over control of my property from me.  So, I would actually go a bit further than Suderman and say that the PPAC was essentially a takeover of the private health insurance industry.

One other point.  In the midst of the debate over the various versions of health care reform that were percolating in Congress since President Obama took office, I frequently voiced the concern that many of the proposals, especially those that included a so-called public option and national health insurance exchanges would lead to a government takeover of the health care system.  My claim was (and is) that forcing heavily regulated private plans to compete against heavily subsidized state-run insurance plans would eventually make private health insurance an untenable business, forcing out private providers, pushing more people onto the public option, and creating a de facto single-payer system until---at some point in time---the whole house of cards tumbled over and an actual single-payer system was established.  In fact, at least one prominent architect and advocate of the public-option/insurance exchange plan publicly claimed that a single-payer system was the inevitable and intended result of the plan.

Whatever the relative merits of the old health system, the regime created by PPACA, or plans offered by other prospective reforms, the main point is that PolitiFact is really off base.

For better or for worse, political debates in this country are conducted in some measure via slogans, soundbites, and bumper-stickers.  If you've got a point to make, you have to have make it quickly---before the next commercial break.  Calling PPACA and its sister proposals a "government takeover of health care" is a reasonably fair, four word summary of the principal small government conservative and libertarian critique of of health care reform proposals that rely on heavy regulations and subsidies.  Sure, it doesn't get all the nuances, but neither does the "If you like your plan, keep it" rhetoric Democrats and others on the left were happy to spread.  (Jake Tapper's ABC News blog Political Punch deals with that particular claim here.)  Calling "government takeover of health care" the biggest lie of the year seems to say much more about the political preferences of PolitiFact than it does about the health care debate.

As for me, I prefer FactCheck, run by the Annenberg center, anyway.

P.S. David Goldhill's piece, "How American Health Care Killed My Father" from the September 2009 Atlantic remains the best piece of writing on the problems of the American health care system and the flaws of insurance-based reform plans I have seen.

No comments:

Post a Comment